Sweden looks to improve on their underwhelming victory over the Swiss as they take on a Latvian team who has been a scrappy bunch thus far.
The Swedes were co-favourites heading into the tournament as they have a talented forward corps and one of if not the best defense/goalie tandem in the world but they took a serious shot over the last couple of days as it was announced first that Henrik Sedin won’t be playing and now team captain Henrik Zetterberg has been sent back to Detroit with a herniated disk in his back. While Sweden still has the horses to compete for a medal their stock took a serious hit and now after a disappointing effort against Switzerland which nonetheless still resulted in a victory they get a Latvian team who has played well through two games. Sweden has been riding the strong play of Henrik Lundqvist thus far who shutout the Swiss yesterday and held the Czechs to just two fluky goals in the tournament opener and if he can continue his success than Sweden should have no trouble breezing through this one and advancing as the group winners.
Latvia meanwhile was just seconds away from forcing overtime in their tournament debut against the Swiss but an unlucky bounce with eight seconds left sealed their fate and a loss to the Czechs yesterday has them all but out of the top two spots in the pool. However, Latvia has been surprisingly competitive over the last three days and now get a chance at a shorthanded Sweden team coming off a sluggish effort who may have their foot on the brakes a bit after basically wrapping up the pool. Latvia has received some spectacular goaltending and their head coach Ted Nolan knows what it takes to win and while I don’t see Latvia winning I do think they have a shot at keeping this game within reason once again especially if the Swedes can get an early lead and just coast to victory. Four goals is a lot even in these tournaments and to me Latvia is much better than the likes of Norway, Austria, and Slovenia. Take this one with caution if you have to but I see the Latvians keeping it within four.